Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister on Wednesday inducted 18 new members in his council of ministers, the first such reshuffle since the BJP government came to power in the state two and a half years back.
Twenty-three ministers - the 18 new faces and five others who were elevated from the minister of state rank they held earlier - were sworn in by Governor Anandiben Patel at the Raj Bhavan. Six of the 23 were sworn in as cabinet ministers, six as ministers of state with an independent charge and the remaining 11 get the MoS rank. Their portfolios are likely to be announced later.
Five ministers resigned Tuesday night from the original 43-member ministry. Among the six sworn in as cabinet ministers, four were earlier ministers of state with independent charge. Another MoS was elevated to the rank of MoS with an independent charge. Adityanath praised the work done by the five ministers. "Those who have done good work have been promoted. All of them are experienced. The entire state will gain from their energy," he told reporters after the ceremony.
Opposition Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav mocked that it took Adityanath over two years to realise there were "non performers and lethargic people" in the ministry. Two new faces - Ram Naresh Agnihotri and Kamal Rani Varun - joined as cabinet ministers. The four MoS-rank ministers promoted to the cabinet-level include Suresh Rana (49), a two-time MLA from Thana Bhawan in western Uttar Pradesh's Shamli, whose name figures in cases related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
Among the others, Mahendra Singh is apparently being rewarded for his performance as the in-charge of the party's affairs in Assam in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Also elevated is Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary, a prominent Jat leader in western Uttar Pradesh. The chief minister promoted Anil Rajbhar as a cabinet minister to fill the gap caused by the exit of Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar, who has considerable influence in the Rajbhar community.
First-time MLA but a BJP veteran, Ram Naresh Agnihotri, who represents Bhogaon assembly segment of Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency, has been inducted as a cabinet minister. Mainpuri is considered a stronghold of the opposition Samajwadi Party. Agnihotri has been associated with the party since 1980 and was a member of the legislative council in the past. The second fresh induction at that level, former Kanpur MP Kamal Rani Varun, represents Ghatampur (SC) seat in the assembly.
She is now the only woman cabinet minister following Rita Bahuguna Joshi's resignation after getting elected to the Lok Sabha. Another woman, Neelima Katiyar, took oath as a minister of state. Neelkanth Tewari, who now gets an independent charge as MoS, was earlier the minister of state for Information. Tewari represents Varanasi South assembly segment in the high-profile Lok Sabha constituency represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
No representative of BJP ally Apna Dal (S) got a berth in Wednesday's expansion. The NDA partner has eight members in the state assembly and one in the legislative council. Only one of them, Jai Kumar Singh, is an MoS. Those who resigned a day before the reshuffle are Transport Minister Swatantra Dev Singh, Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal, Basic Education Minister Anupama Jaiswal, Irrigation Minister Dharmapal Singh and Mining Minister Archana Pandey, a press statement said.
Nine of the ministers who took oath on Wednesday are from the general category, three from Scheduled Castes and 11 from Other Backward Classes. Region-wise, 12 of them are from eastern UP, 10 from western UP and one from Bundelkhand. UP BJP spokesperson Chandramohan said the reshuffle follows the spirit of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' as people from all the sections of society and regions are represented. A day before the cabinet reshuffle, the chief minister was closeted with senior RSS functionaries and top state BJP leaders to give a final shape to his new team that is expected to lead the state up to the 2022 assembly elections.
The swearing-in ceremony was punctuated with chants of 'Har Har Mahadev' by supporters of Ravindra Jaiswal, when his name was called out for taking oath. The newly inducted ministers touched Adityanath's feet, seeking his blessings. The revamp followed vacant slots in the Uttar Pradesh ministry after the Lok Sabha elections. Three of the 47 ministers earlier -- Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Satyadev Pachauri and S P Singh Baghel -- were elected to the Lok Sabha in May. SBSP party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar was sacked from the ministry over his outbursts against the BJP-led government. Another minister, Swatantra Dev Singh, was appointed as the party's state unit chief.